Editor Tronick a cut above with 'Hannah,' 'Hairspray'


Last weekend's wildly successful opening of Disney's "Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert" in 3-D attracted a lot of eyeballs. The concert film, released only in digital 3-D, bowed on 683 screens and broke records with an opening-weekend three-day tally of $31.5 million and an astonishing $45,000-per-screen average.

To say it demonstrated the potential of 3-D, as well as timely 3-D "events," would be an understatement.

The film, which lensed in mid-November and posted in a remarkable 11 weeks, was a unique experience for all those involved -- including veteran editor Michael Tronick.

For Tronick, this was his second music-driven film in the past year. In the summer, he cut Adam Shankman's hit "Hairspray," earning the editor an ACE nomination.

Tronick notes that the two films were very different experiences. "When you are cutting a concert film, the takes are from the beginning of the film to the end," he says. "So over the course of a song, I could have as many as 28 cameras through the entire song. Whereas in a feature, they will just do things a section at a time. So they will do the intro, and then they will do a new setup for the first line of the verse ... so it is more of a puzzle to put together, more on choreography and music.

"With the concert film, these songs averaged three to four minutes, so it was about looking at it in its totality," he adds. "I (started by) going through and pulling selects from the cameras and building my kind of greatest hits from the performance."

Tronick edited on an Avid Adrenaline, at points working so fast that he essentially was cutting a song a day. He was working closely with the rest of the team, as his work was sent to Burbank-based post house Fotokem, which handled finishing -- including digital color grading -- using Quantel's Pablo finishing system with new 3-D software that was introduced to the market in September.

"Hannah" was directed by Disney veteran Bruce Hendricks and produced by Art Repola. The 3-D cameras were provided by 3-D company Pace, whose founder Vince Pace oversaw the 3-D shoots and served as an executive producer on the film.

"We got a lot of support from Fotokem and from Pace and the guys at Disney. ... It's been a blast," Tronick says. " 'Hannah Montana' is all live 3-D, it's not a 3-D effect that's being created in CG or in post. And I see tremendous potential for it being used in everything from dramatic films to action. The first time I saw it, it made me not want to go back to 2-D, which of course you have to. I'm really excited about the potential of 3-D."

With the boxoffice numbers in, Disney is extending the length of the film's theatrical run -- originally slated for a one-week engagement.

But while the movie's success pointed to the potential for the format, it also suggests the challenges that still need to be overcome in the 3-D arena.

As more 3-D titles become available for a still-limited number of 3-D-ready digital screens, scheduling is a growing concern. "Hannah" bowed in 683 3-D venues -- the lion's share of the available digital 3-D venues in the U.S. Meanwhile, "U2 3D," which already has opened in film-based Imax venues, is scheduled to release in digital 3-D on Feb. 15 -- tapping the bulk of available 3-D-ready digital theaters once "Hannah" surrenders its hold on them.